By Ebrima Jallow
The chairman of the Commission on Political Debates (CPD), Bakary Fatty, has left the shores of The Gambia for a four-day training in Ghana, as he sought to furnish the credentials of his Commission in the international arena.
The training, being jointly organised by the West African Society Institute (Wasi) and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (Osiwa), is bringing together 35 activists across the sub-region from November 4-7, 2019, enhancing their skills on peaceful non-violent political mobilisation.
Speaking before his departure, Bakary said: “I am excitedly looking forward to making the case for non-violent, peaceful and practical political mobilisation during the course of the training with vigour, vitality and vim. Because, in the end, I am an evangelical believer that, as a country and continent, non-violence is the necessary and desirable way to achieving pluralistic democracy, rapid socio-economic development and long-lasting peace.”
In order to hit the ground running ahead of a future presidential election during which period he intends to organise a trenchant, and titillatingly no-hold-bared debates on both domestic and international issues among presidential hopefuls, Bakary successfully launched the CPD last month at a local hotel in Senegambia.
Asked how the training would advance the aims of his commission, he said: “From a personal point of view, as chairman of the commission on political debates, it will avail me the opportunity to hobnob with my colleagues and counterparts from other West African countries, gusting with energy and dynamism, to formally interact, network and build formidable partnerships. From a professional perspective, I anticipate learning different methods, tactics and strategies of achieving effective non-violent mobilisation. Our region has seen recently a sweeping wave of democracy that is people-powered democratic change of government. But democracy, as anyone who is in the business of promoting it knows, is a fragile flower. We need to water it with discussion, debates, dialogue so that we can reach convulsive decisions that reflects different spectrum of views.”
The Gambia was among countries that recently changed governments without resorting to violent street-demonstrations, ushering in President Adama Barrow.
He campaigned on a platform to serve for three years in office to institute reforms. The constitution mandated a five-year term, which the president now vows to uphold, reneging on his promise to Gambians to plump for a full five-year term.
But there is a flaming row raging between his opponents called 3 Years Jotna, who are dead-set to stage a protest in December to call for him to step down, and supporters who want President Barrow to stay put until 2021.
Invited to weigh in on the debate, Bakary, who was the host of the Civic Engagement Hour on Capital FM and the People’s Platform, designed to engage political leaders, cracked a joke, saying: “You are inviting me to swim into an acidic water, where I will emerge with my body decapitated like victims of our jabbering junglers,” before seriously adding, “Well look, our country is a peaceful country. I am neutral on this issue, like any other issue. But, right here, right now, through this newspaper, I make an offer to both the leadership of the 3 Years Jotna and supporters of the five years: put up a representative to debate your case on my platform. Together, we can work on the format. Are you political protest movements or peace-loving Gambians? We are about to find out. I for one subscribe to, and would prescribe, the noble ideals of the former Holy Roman Emperor Kaiser Francis II who said in Latin, ‘Justitia regnorum fundamentum’, meaning peace and justice is the foundation of all kingdoms.”